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Blame Iraqis' Suffering

On Saddam, Not on the UN

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The front-page article ''Saddam, Sanctions Plunge Iraq Into 'Irreversible' Ruin,'' Oct. 30, contains factual errors and conveys a mistaken picture of responsibility for the distress of the Iraqi people. There are no United Nations restrictions on food and medicine imports into Iraq, as the article alleges. The article also omits that the UN Security Council has adopted a resolution permitting Iraq to sell a large amount of oil to finance the importation of food, medicine, and other humanitarian items.

The reality is that Saddam Hussein has chosen not to avail himself of this and other opportunities to alleviate the suffering of his people and prefers to exploit their suffering as a propaganda tool to push for the removal of sanctions.

John A. Hamilton Washington

Director, Public Affairs

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

US Department of State

Alternative schooling

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Regarding the letter ''Alternative Schools Aren't the Solution,'' Nov. 15: As a teacher who has worked with students who are placed in alternative programs for carrying weapons, I would like to explain why these students are removed from their schools. In our high school district, as in others, students violating the law and carrying weapons must be removed from their regular school, temporarily or permanently.

If not serving a sentence, students may be directed to our Independent Study program where they are supervised individually. They may earn regular credits toward graduation - or, depending on age and previously earned credits, qualify for a proficiency certificate through the state. They may also prepare for a GED.

A proportionate number of students, after dealing with the seriousness of their offense, do earn their diploma or succeed in passing the proficiency or the GED tests. In most cases, these teens are not ''hardened'' criminals and an alternative program can prevent them from following that path.

Patricia Barrett Foster City, Calif.

Congress and the states

Regarding the editorial ''Adjusting the Federal Balance,'' Nov. 1: The ability of the states to modify the Constitution is vital in areas where the interests of members of Congress differ from the best interests of the nation as a whole. The mere threat of using this power prompts more responsible behavior by the federal government. After 32 states called for a constitutional convention to consider a balanced- budget amendment, Congress managed to pass Gramm-Rudman and at least for a while significantly reduce deficit spending.

The editorial implies that the 17th Amendment, which changed the selection of senators to a popular vote, was a mistake because it reduced the leverage of states on the federal government. Whether it is a mistake or not, it is interesting to note that the amendment repeatedly failed to pass the Senate until 27 of the then necessary 31 states called for a constitutional convention to propose the amendment.

The states have all the constitutional power they need to rein in any excesses of the federal government. All they need is the will to act and a very broad consensus.

John H. Early Amarillo, Texas

The women in Bosnia

Something vital was missing from the Bosnian-Serb-Croat peace talks in Dayton, Ohio: the voice of women, who have suffered acutely in the loss of husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, as well as property. Too many women now are burdened with rebuilding homes and families, as well as supporting children and surviving older relatives. Because they have as much at stake as men, they should have had an equal voice in the talks. They would have been a powerful voice for common sense and goodwill, neutralizing military pride and personal ambition.

Liz Furst Springdale, Ark.

Providing aid to Palestinians

Amid the eulogies for Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and concerns about settler fanaticism, there has been an eerie silence on two interwoven causes of conflict in the region: the State of Israel's injustice to Palestinians and the confusion of the United States' national interests in the area.

With all due respect to the late prime minister, and to the president and the congressional representatives who traveled to Jerusalem to memorialize his work, Americans support democracy and justice for all. On the basis of such principles, we need a foreign policy that provides needed aid to the Palestinians and calls upon Israel to cease its systematic denial of rights to them.

Rod Parrott Claremont, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet e-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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